Story by Steve Wright
GOVERNMENTS are right to support the principle of freedom of expression, but it is another thing altogether to allocate public money to an anti-industry campaign tool.
That is what is occurring with the bankrolling of a $1.2 million so-called 'documentary' about the natural gas industry, which was unveiled in Adelaide on Tuesday and is set to be shown to Sydney media on Thursday.
While Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane has been busting a gut trying to work through a looming east coast gas supply crunch for tens of thousands of businesses and millions of gas consumers, arms of government have been busily funding a big element of the activist toolkit being used in the campaign to permanently shut down supply.
But it was not only Screen Australia that indulged the film-makers. ScreenWest and Screen Queensland also tipped in hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The proposal's name, Frackman The Movie, should have been enough to raise their antenna. A 30-second internet search would then have highlighted a person who has been arrested a number of times when undertaking his Frackman fossil fuel protest activities.
The funding agencies might also have noted the stated intentions of the movie producers, to create a film that changes voter preferences, sparks a royal commission and is added to the national secondary school curriculum.
Queensland Resources Council chief Michael Roche belled the cat in Brisbane last week, pinpointing the movie funding issue and also highlighting the other less direct, but no less real, taxpayer support available to anti-industry protest groups.